Phil Swan, iNetwork

These are some of the main lessons I took from the presentations and discussions on the 20th May event. Over 12 colleagues from Wigan attended and led an extremely interesting discussion on community engagement and reform of social care in Scholes.

Both the presentations from this day are available on the iNetwork Knowledge Hub at

35 council and NHS colleagues met up in Wigan this week to get under the skin of the Wigan Deal and the council’s work with the community in Scholes to rethink social care. To put this work in context five years ago they thought it would be almost impossible to take £250k out of social care. Last year they took out £8m and are improving the quality of service and outcomes for local people.

The council target is to reduce spend by £108m by 2017 and so to address this Wigan has a transformation programme that sits across the whole organisation linking with each directorate’s transformation activities. The council is investing £2m in this aiming to achieve a savings of £41m.

On the Wigan Deal presented by Donna Hall, Chief Executive of Wigan Council.

  • The only effective way through the cuts is to change the nature of demand for council services, not by addressing supply. This means reframing the council’s and community’s culture and their relationship, including asking the community to do their bit.
  • Have a people focus, not a service or system focus. Bring together policies and services based on the needs of people.
  • Wigan’s “Deal” brings together a single corporate message. Each directorate aligns their own activities to and campaigns build on it. Councils can benefit massively from “free” PR and social media exposure. Wigan council has 10,000 twitter followers now and it is a key channel for them.
  • Understand and apply behavioural economics techniques and revisit the language and communications used by the council – redesigning Wigan’s council tax letter increased early payments by 10%. Applying the same techniques to recycling rates will help cut costs without reducing services.
  • Distributed and individual leadership supports the message that you only learn by trying, by taking risks and that means some things won’t work. Listening, empowering leadership is critical and the role of supportive Councillors are vital in having a positive risk / blame free culture.
  • The internal dialogue has to be about “What can we do differently?”, not “How can we cut cost?”. The latter demotivates and disempowers.

 Specific council and community wide enablers at Wigan:

  • A very clear vision based on Marmot Review.
  • A joint health & social care intelligence structure that provides deep insight into communities
  • Fortnightly “Listening into Action“ sessions with the Chief Executive and Leader across whole the council.
  • Engaging schools
  • Local campaigns in each area.
  • Use online channels effectively – like Wigan’s “Deal” area on their website.
  • Investing in social entrepreneurs – £4m in total so far.
  • Invest in core capability to support this work – a central transformation team linked with transformation teams in each directorate.
  • Investing in staff through training on new tools and techniques like behavioural economics.

For example: encouraging people in communities who are housebound to offer to collect post for neighbours. Whilst this seems only a minor activity, it increases self worth and potentially involves isolated people with their community – neighbours may pop round to collect post and stop for a chat, they might offer to get something from the shops for them, or see if they need a hand with anything.

Lessons from the Wigan Scholes pilot presented by Councillor Cuncliffe and Stuart Cowley, Director of Adult Social Care

The Wigan Scholes pilot work has rethought how the council works with people in communities and it is now being rolled out council wide having been shown to be a success.  Key to the work in Scholes has been connecting together the latent potential in the community with people who need help.

The impact of the pilot has been considerable, greatly reducing the cost of support packages by having “deeper conversations” with people to understand their interests and then match these with local community assets.

What are some of the key enablers?

  • Social care has a three year budget and clear delivery model.
  • Ethnographic methodology and training gives people the skills they need to really understand communities.
  • Cross functional “patch teams” made up of social care, health, housing, benefits and other professionals have these “deeper conversations” with people and focus on using local community assets.
  • A community investment fund matched against needs of the community engages social entrepreneurs and builds community assets
  • Developing a community asset map enables staff to engage with people and the local community assets e.g. lunches, rugby club activities etc. This is being developed into a new eMarket which staff can use on the front line.

Here are some of the key lessons learnt:

  • Focus on the assets that people have, not what deficits they need addressing.
  • Use techniques like ethnography to really understanding people and design better services.
  • Have “deeper conversations” with people to understand what they really need and are interested in. Look for community solutions, not council service based ones.
  • Complement social workers with coordinators or brokers, who connect people with community assets.
  • Personal budgets are key – generates micro businesses as well.
  • Underlying work on asset based methodologies really important.

For example: A couple who were about to go to residential care but managed to keep them at home by getting them much more involved with their community through lunch clubs etc.

So to summarise
Take risks, invest in communities and change capabilities, use intelligence and focus on cohorts, communicate differently and brilliantly, change the culture, change demand, understand and work with community assets, have deeper conversations with people, and be creative with support.